This week I’m going into my personal bag of frustration and yanking out a game most people know, Frogger. So you ask, how frustrating can it be? It has a freaking 4 way joystick and no action buttons, it can’t be that hard. We’ll if you can breeze through Frogger, effortlessly transitioning from avoiding cars, to leaping from log to log, and getting to the safety of the “lily pads” along the top of the screen, Congrats. I wasn’t one of those people. Every jump, every move was an exercise in frustration for me.
The goal of the game is pretty simple. You are a frog located at the bottom of the screen. You can jump in any of the 4 cardinal directions with every push and pull of the 4 way joystick. You are suppose to navigate first a freeway and then a swamp in an attempt to get the frog home to 5 lily pads along the top of the playfield. There are 6 lanes of traffic and 6 rows of turtles, logs, and gators in the swamp area. between the two areas, is a safe zone of green grass. As you get more and more frogs from the bottom to the top the difficulty increases. The speed of the cars, the frequency that the turtles submerge to kill you, and the addition of the Alligator in 2 places, all contribute to raising the difficulty. The first alligator ends up floating by, taking the place of the log. As long as you avoid jumping onto his head/open mouth you can ride him just like a log. The second gator that appears, shows up as random teeth that pop into your unoccupied lily pads. If his head is in the Lily pad space, you are unable to enter it and must move to another, or, backtrack and wait. The other thing that adds to the tension and sense of urgency of Frogger is that damned timer. Always counting down until it reaches zero, or until you are able to navigate five frogs onto all 5 lily pads at the top of the screen. If you do that, it starts a new round and resets the timer.
There are bonuses available to you as you progress up the screen. You can run into a female frog in the swamp area. She is usually riding a log. You leap onto her.. at which point I think she mounts you and you “escort” her back to a pad for a 200 point bonus. The second bonus that is available happens when random “flies” show up on your lily pad and if you jump on the fly you also get 200 points. Like I said, the game is simple in its premise, diabolical in its execution. To be honest, that is the reason this game is a true classic.
I can complain all I want about how the game cheats and how its unfair. I would constantly jump onto the back of a sinking turtle or die because I jumped into the back of a slow moving car. Sometimes I would make my way back to get my frog girlfriend only to miss the last jump into the lily pad area. The remorse I felt for not only killing myself but also my Lady frog was painful to my 9 year old self. I loved to blame the game, but deep down I knew it wasn’t cheating and I just sucked at it. These “fond” memories still don’t stop me from firing Frogger up every once in a while to play a few games. The controls are tight and the music and sound effects are fun, but not so repetitive or grating that they become annoying after a stretch. In 1981, Frogger held its own against games like Pac-man and Donkey Kong by being different. I recommend finding a way to play it and experiencing the fun, (and frustration)of this classic arcade game.